Screens Sunday March 8, 7.40pm on ABC
Filmed over the course of a year, Life On The Reef follows those who live in one of the most extraordinary places on the planet, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
In episode two, spring is in the air and it’s the season for sex. In the coastal rainforests, rising humidity kick-starts life in the undergrowth, while out on the water, the rising water temperature is priming the reef for reproduction.
Around four days after the November full moon, the reef prepares for the biggest event of the year. Dive instructor Paddy Colwell heads out with a boatload of divers at sunset in the hope of being in just the right place at just the right time to experience the annual coral spawn. Billions of coral polyps for hundreds of kilometres release their egg and sperm into the ocean.
In this season for sex, fish are also getting in the mood. From the transgender Wrasse that change sex, to gangs of sharks – whose violent nature extends to their brutal pack attacks on females. Birds are also getting clucky, as those that pair for life return to the cays of the Capricorn Bunker to begin their courtship.
The breeding habits of the Crown of Thorns starfish are so prolific park managers must constantly monitor their numbers to avoid an outbreak. These coral-eating starfish produce over sixty million eggs up to three times per year. If left unchecked, these animals could wreak havoc all along the 2300 kilometres of coral reef.
While the Great Barrier Reef faces changes in climate, nutrient run-off, acidification, habitat loss and over-fishing – the pressure is on for scientists and managers to find the balance for species, some needing to be controlled others critically endangered. The diversity of life on the coral reef is spectacular. Sex on the reef needs to be managed carefully to ensure the ongoing survival of this complex and dynamic ecosystem.